SATs results this year will be ‘useless’ and tests should be cancelled, say school leaders

School leaders’ union NAHT has published the results of a survey of its members on SATs in 2022. The survey received more than 2,000 responses from school leaders in England. 

  • Only 8% agreed that the results would provide meaningful data about their school’s performance. 
  • Only 10% of respondents agreed that 2022 SATs data would be a reliable indicator of children’s attainment or progress. 
  • Only 1% felt that KS1 SATs should go ahead as planned this year, and only 3% felt KS2 SATs should go ahead as planned. 
  • Only 11% of survey respondents trust that Ofsted will not draw conclusions based on SATs data alone and that they will not draw comparisons with performance data from previous years. 

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “Primary schools have experienced severe disruption due to COVID this year – just as much as in 2020 and 2021. And that disruption has not been felt evenly – some schools have been harder hit by staff and pupil absences than others, meaning children have had very different experiences of teaching and learning. 

“For that reason, the results of SATs this year really can’t be compared, either with previous years or with other schools. There is a real danger that the data from these tests could paint a very misleading picture of an individual school’s performance and lead to incorrect conclusions being drawn. 

“Teachers don’t need SATs results to tell them about a pupil’s progress. They are already constantly assessing that, and are more aware than ever of what each child needs to help them recover any lost learning from the pandemic. SATs are not something teachers find valuable for assessment and are simply a distraction during a time when there is still significant disruption in schools. 

“The week schools will need to spend putting children through these tests could be far better spent focusing on teaching and learning. That is particularly true this year given the time pupils have already missed from school due to COVID. 

“SATs are really used to assess schools more than pupils – but the data from this year’s tests will be largely useless when it comes to judging a school’s performance. If the government is determined that SATs must go ahead, the data should only be used at a national or local level, and not to draw conclusions about the performance of individual schools. 

“Although the government has told us that SATs data will be treated with caution by inspectors, local authorities and regional schools’ commissioners, our members tell us that they simply do not trust that this will really be the case. The government needs to do a lot more to convince schools that SATs should go ahead as planned and to rebuild the trust of the profession.” 

Commenting on the NAHT survey results, Bickerstaffe CE  School‘s headteacher, Kirstin O’Kane, said: “For our children in Year 6 and Year 2, their last full year in school was in Year 3 and nursery. They have suffered severe disruption to their academic journey and also to their mental health and wellbeing. They have missed many key concepts throughout the last two years and attendance due to COVID from staff and children still continues to be a critical problem that we face daily.  

“Our children have demonstrated resilience and perseverance, they are excited to be back at work and willing to learn, but to expect children to sit tests for a whole week, when they haven’t had the opportunity to cover the whole curriculum, seems unjust. It is also unrealistic to believe that this data will not be used to judge schools against others even though everyone’s experiences has been very different during the pandemic.  

“As a school we believe that the time dedicated to SATs would be much better spent catching up on lost learning and preparing them for the next stage of their education, by ensuring a thorough transition with their high schools.” 

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